Candida Overgrowth

Last week I had a request to discuss Candida overgrowth.  I love audience participation!  And it’s a great topic because the symptoms of yeast overgrowth are very common and can be difficult to diagnose.

So what is Candida?  Candida is a species of yeast that grows in humans.  It often causes thrush in the mouth and vaginal yeast infections.  It can also be found in the intestine.

The large intestine has a number of different species of bacteria.  Some can be harmful and some are helpful.  Yeast is also present in the intestine in small amounts.  Under some circumstances, such as after antibiotic treatment or with certain dietary problems, the yeast can overgrow and outcompete the beneficial bacteria.  If that happens the person can develop symptoms of illness.

What happens if there is yeast overgrowth in the intestine?  There is evidence linking high amounts of yeast in the stool to chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, among other problems.  Since 2/3 of the immune system is located in the intestine, Candida overgrowth can cause immune dysfunction.  It is linked to autoimmune disease and can also lead to frequent infections.

So how do we know if you have yeast overgrowth?  If you have chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease or other medical problems, the diagnosis of Candida overgrowth is made with a comprehensive stool analysis.  The comprehensive stool analysis is ordered by a doctor who has a relationship with a specialty lab;  regular labs don’t perform this test.  I work with Doctor’s Data, one of the leading labs providing these special tests.

Treatment of Candida overgrowth generally involves both antifungal medication and careful adjustment of the diet.  It’s important to avoid simple sugars because yeast lives on sugar.  Eating sugar stimulates the overgrowth of the yeast organisms.  Probiotic supplements (I recommend Shaklee’s OptiFlora) will replace the yeast and other problem organisms with good, healthy bacteria to support the immune system and digestive health.  Caprylic acid, a supplement made from coconut oil, kills yeast without harming the good bacteria.

Candida overgrowth is a common problem with symptoms that are very nonspecific.  These symptoms range from fatigue to chronic pain to digestive upset (diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and gas) to mood disorders.  The problem is difficult to diagnose and requires real commitment on the patient’s part to treat effectively.  It’s not just a matter of taking pills;  you must be ready to change your diet too.

If you think you might have yeast overgrowth and would like to be tested, please let me know.  I’d be happy to see you and discuss it.  If you’re not in the Cleveland area you can check the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine to find a doctor close to you.

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